Filipino Fisherman And Environmentalist Among Those Honored With Asia’s ‘Nobel Prize’: The Ramon Magsaysay Award

Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon | IMG SOURCE: CNN Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino fisherman and environmentralist who pushed a sustainable marine environment to revive a dying fishing industry was among four people who got recognized this year by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon, a 53-year-old fisherman from Zamboanga Sibugay in southern Philippines, was cited for his “shining example of how everyday acts of heroism can truly be extraordinary and transformative.”

“Our families depend on the sea for our survival, not on politicians or other people, so it is only right that we make its protection our priority.”

Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon, a 53-year-old fisherman from Zamboanga Sibugay

The Manila-based foundation announced the awardees, who also included a Pakistani, a Bangladeshi, an American and an Indonesian documentary group, at an online news briefing on Tuesday.

“As a fisherman, I dedicate this to my family, to everyone who has helped me, institutions and the government agencies that help our association and our programs,” Mr. Ballon said in a video in Filipino.

“I dedicate this also to all fishermen, especially the small fishermen across the Philippines,” he added.

Also honored was poverty alleviation visionary Muhammad Amjad Saqib of Pakistan, affordable vaccine champion Firdausi Qadri of Bangladesh, American humanitarian and peace builder Steven Muncy and Watchdoc of Indonesia.

Mr. Muncy was recognized for his “unshakable belief in the goodness of man that inspires in others the desire to serve; his life-long dedication to humanitarian work, refugee assistance and peace building; and his unstinting pursuit of dignity, peace and harmony for people in exceptionally difficult circumstances in Asia,” the foundation said in a statement.

Ms. Qadri was awarded for her “passion and life-long devotion to the scientific profession and her vision of building the human and physical infrastructure that will benefit the coming generation of Bangladeshi scientists, women scientists in particular.”

The foundation also cited her contributions to vaccine development, advanced biotechnological therapeutics and critical research that has been saving millions of lives.

Mr. Saqib was recognized for his “intelligence and compassion that enabled him to create the largest microfinance institution in Pakistan; his inspiring belief that human goodness and solidarity will find ways to eradicate poverty; and his determination to stay with a mission that has already helped millions of Pakistani families.”

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Watchdoc was cited for its “highly principled crusade for an independent media organization, its energetic use of investigative journalism, documentary filmmaking and digital technology in its effort to transform Indonesia’s media landscape.”

The annual Ramon Magsaysay Award, which started in 1957 to perpetuate former Philippine President Ramon F. Magsaysay, Sr.’s example of integrity in governance, resumed this year after it was canceled last year amid a global coronavirus pandemic.

The awards will be given out on Nov. 28 at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Manila.

The awardees will be presented with a medallion embossed with a right side-facing profile of the late President, a certificate and a cash prize.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award has been given to 340 people and organizations “whose selfless service has offered their societies, Asia and the world successful solutions to some of the most intractable problems of human development,” according to its website.

Previous awardees from the Philippines include National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab (2019); the late President Corazon C. Aquino (1998); the late National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin (1996); actress, volunteer and former Philippine National Red Cross member Rosa Rosal (1999); and the late BusinessWorld founder Raul L. Locsin (1999).

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